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Podcast: Government hacking v. human rights

On the latest edition of The Cybersecurity Podcast, digital privacy expert Amie Stepanovich discusses government hacking from a human rights perspective.

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People reflected on a phone as they attend a protest against what they say are attacks on India's low-caste Dalit community in Mumba in August.

Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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The government can hack you ... legally. It sounds like a dystopian sci-fi novel, but all around the world, governments are increasingly breaking into personal computers and smartphones to carry out spy operations.

Yet Amie Stepanovich, who specializes in cybersecurity and privacy law at digital rights group Access Now, says most types of government hacking can violate international human rights. If targeted government hacking is absolutely necessary for law enforcement purposes, Ms. Stepanovich, who recently released a paper on this topic, says the government should adhere to strict human rights safeguards – including warning its hacking targets as soon as possible.

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"Notice has to be given eventually, and as soon as practical, after the activity has occurred," she tells the podcast. "It can't go on that they hack a device and never inform the person they have done that. And, notice should extend beyond the specific target – these tools have huge ramifications for people in communication with the target."

Also on this episode, podcast cohosts Peter Singer from New America and Sara Sorcher from the Christian Science Monitor's Passcode discuss the role hacking has played in the American elections so far – and the challenges this kind of information warfare might pose well into the future.

Listen to this episode.

Follow all episodes: iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher

Follow the hosts: Peter W. Singer | Sara Sorcher